The Orioles began the season with so much promise. Not only with their improved, more veteran big-league roster, but also in terms of their farm system.
With Manny Machado, the team's first-round selection from the 2010 draft, they had one of the top position prospects in baseball, and with Zach Britton, a third-rounder from 2006, they had one of the top pitching prospects.
For those two players, the season was a wash.
Machado got off to a hot start, drawing four walks in his third career start, before an injury cost him nearly a month. When he returned, he was good, but not great. In fact, he paled in comparison to the Orioles top hitter of the year (featured in the next slide). He earned an expected promotion to Frederick where again, he was good, but not jaw-dropping. He ended the season with a .257 average, 11 homers and 50 RBI.
Britton didn't see the majors until late in the season, making the most of a Brian Matusz injury, and made 24 starts with the big-league club. He wore down as the season did, and eventually was shuffled all the way back to Double-A. He worked his way back up and has looked strong, earning his ninth victory and lowering his ERA from the 4.66 that it peaked at in early August.
Luckily for the front office and for O's fans, there were plenty of players to pick up the slack.
The team added Dylan Bundy in this year's first-year player draft, but it was Dylan's older brother Bobby who really shone the brightest on the mound, locking down pitcher of the year honors. Bundy had company in the pitching department, most notably from Oliver Drake, Daniel Klein and Tim Bascom.
So, without further ado, let's examine who were the best (and worst) players in the Orioles farm system this year.
The fact that Schoop performed as well as he did in Low-A ball was astounding.
That he struggled in High-A was to be expected, but the fact that he rebounded to finish as one of the Keys top hitters as a 19-year old might mean the O's have something special in the Curacao native.
Schoop began the year as an afterthought, a backup to top prospect Manny Machado at shortstop. Sure enough, though, he forced his way into the lineup with his bat, and it wasn't long before he was getting regular starts at third base. By May he was outplaying the team's top prospect.
In 51 games with Delmarva, Schoop hit .316 with 12 doubles and eight home runs, three fewer than Machado hit the entire season. He showed incredible plate discipline for a teenager, drawing 20 walks to just 32 strikeouts. He even showed some decent speed, legging out three triples and stealing six bases.
By the time June rolled around, there really wasn't a reason NOT to promote Schoop, despite his age and inexperience (six games of full-season experience coming into 2011).
He struggled, understandably, hitting just .250 during June and .214 during July. He rebounded during August and was the team's hottest hitter during the month, hitting .336 with eight doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI. He slumped a bit in September, but it didn't matter.
He clinched the Orioles minor league player of the year honors by the time August was half-through.
Schoop performed so well at third, that he's now considered the team's long-term answer there. They moved Mark Reynolds to first base to plug that hole so now the only players standing between Schoop and the big-league job are Josh Bell, he of the .205 career average in the Majors, and Brandon Waring (see later).
The real key for Schoop will be avoiding a slump in 2012. With another strong season, he could boost his prospect status greatly and could be considered one of the top young infielders in baseball.
.290, 82 runs, 24 2B, five 3B, 13 homers, 71 RBI, 42-to-76 BB:K, 12-of-19 SB (Delmarva and Frederick)
His brother Dylan hogged all the spotlight this year, but maybe that was for the best. It allowed Bobby some extra breathing room and he rewarded the Orioles for their patience (not to mention their $600k bonus) with the best season of any pitcher in the system.
Bundy's season began quietly, with the right-hander making solid starts for High-A Frederick. He slowly built momentum, and by the time the Orioles added his brother in the June draft, Bundy was as hot as any pitcher in the minors, save for Matt Moore, Edwar Cabrera and Trevor May. He earned Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors twice, was named to the circuit's All-Star roster and has a good shot at being named the league's pitcher of the year.
With Frederick, he went 11-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 20 starts, covering 121 innings. That number alone broke his career mark of 116 set in 2010. He posted a very strong 100-to-31 K:BB ratio and held hitters to a .230 average. He finished third in the league in ERA and WHIP, tied for second in victories, and among the top-15 in several other categories, including strikeouts and innings, despite making his final five appearances in the Eastern League.
Bundy finally earned a promotion in August and made four starts for the Baysox. He was hit hard, but got invaluable experience pitching against tougher hitters. He showed flashes in his second start of the same dominance he showed in the Carolina League.
Bundy will likely start the 2012 season in Double-A and could be joined at some point by his brother who figures to be on an accelerated pace thanks to his big-league contract. No doubt, both brothers will rank among the O's top 10 prospects heading into 2012.
12-8, 3.51 ERA, 25 G, 24 GS, 1 CG, 136 IP, 113-to-42 K:BB, 11 HRA (Frederick and Bowie)
It's a pretty tough feat to go from High-A ball to the Majors in three seasons. Doing it in less than one is nearly impossible, but consider outfielder Kyle Hudson master of the impossible.
The 24-year old outfielder, who was drafted 116th-overall back in 2008, started the season with High-A Frederick, but it took only 23 games for him to reach Bowie for the first time ever. He hit better than expected (.308) and played stellar defense. In fact, he was so good that the O's had no hesitation about bumping him up to Triple-A when the need arose in late May.
Once again, Hudson surprised the organization, hitting .385 in July and .313 in August. He also swiped 26 bases for the Norfolk Tides in just 68 games, and became a constant at the top of their lineup. He maintained his high average, hitting .297 with Norfolk and scored runs at will.
All of his hard work culminated in a September first call-up. Hudson has made three starts for Baltimore and has, for the most part, looked in over his head, but no doubt the experience will prove invaluable and it was the least the Orioles could do for the former Illinois wide-receiver who ditched football for pro baseball back in 2008.
.296, 60 runs, 13 doubles, two triples, 23 RBI, 53-to-95 BB:K, 41-of-57 SB (Frederick, Bowie, and Norfolk)
It's easy to forget because he was lost to an injury in June, but Daniel Klein was arguably the top pitcher in the organization this season.
The 23-year old was a sensation in his first full season with the club, reaching Double-A Bowie after just seven appearances in High-A ball. At Frederick, he was dominant, allowing just nine hits and two runs in 15.2 innings. He struck out 21 and walks just three. Both runs came on solo homers.
After a promotion to Bowie, he was even better. Again, he only allowed two runs, this time in nine outings covering 16.2 innings. He again walked just three batters, while striking out 16. He also picked up three victories in relief.
The real shame about Klein's season is that his injury, a SLAP tear in his right-labrum, negated the argument about whether or not the pitcher would earn a spot in the Orioles bullpen by the end of the 2011 season.
The timetable on Klein's return is unknown, but it's unlikely that we'll see him again before next year's All-Star break, and even more unlikely that he'll return in a starting role, as many expected him to this year.
3-1, 1.11 ERA, 16 G, 32.1 IP, 37-to-6 K:BB, two HRA (Frederick and Bowie)
When players in any sport talk about "grinding" through a season, be sure to keep Chorye Spoone in mind.
The Orioles former top prospect has battled more than most, coming back from Tommy John surgery after missing nearly two years. Once upon a time, Spoone was considered a shoe-in for the Orioles future rotation, but after yet another tough season, both sides have to be wondering what the right-hander's future is with the club.
You have to give Spoone credit for grinding through a full-season, despite less than desirable results. He appeared in 31 games, 19 of which came in the form of starts. He pitched decently for Double-A Bowie, where he's dominated in the past, posting a 4.11 ERA and tossing his first complete-game since the 2007 Carolina League playoffs.
His performance for Triple-A Norfolk was not nearly as pretty. In eight starts, he was destroyed. Batters hit .293 off of him and tagged him with 41 hits and 26 runs in just 34.1 innings. His ERA for the Tides was 5.50.
If Spoone is going to be a part of the O's long-term plans, most likely now as a reliever, he's going to have to prove he can get outs in Triple-A. Assuming the O's keep him next season, that's where he'll start.
7-6, 4.50 ERA, 31 G, 19 GS, 122 IP, 80-to-67 K:BB, six HRA (Bowie and Norfolk)
If any player could have used a break-out season in 2011, it was Greg Miclat.
The weak-hitting infielder with limited offensive potential all-around was coming off of a rather unimpressive campaign in which he finished the year with Double-A Bowie, hitting just .246 over the final 62 games of the season. Somehow, despite having above-average speed, Miclat stole only 12 bases all season, and got caught in nearly half of his attempts.
Enter 2011 and the new and improved Miclat.
Yes, he still is a much better fielder than hitter, but he proved something to both his organization and himself. In 120 games, all with Bowie, Miclat hit .280 with 16 doubles, three triples and two home runs. The two long-balls doubled his career total to give him four in nearly 400 minor league contests.
Most impressive of all, Miclat upped his stolen base total to 50, good for second in the Eastern League. Amazingly, he only got caught stealing three times all season, for a 94% success rate. That number was tops in all of the minor leagues.
Through it all, Miclat continued to play solid defense. He made just 18 errors, marking the third consecutive season that he's cut his miscues by at least three. His fielding percentage of .967 was a career high.
.290, 78 runs, 16 2B, three 3B, two HR, 24 RBI, 54-to-94 BB:K, 50-of-53 SB (Bowie)
One of the youngest members of the O's Double-A squad, Hoes had a sensational season, showing he can handle the level's pitching with aplomb, while tantalizing the organization with brief bursts of power that make many think he actually has a future with the club.
Hoes has always been a solid hitter. He hit .308 in his debut campaign with the GCL Orioles and hit .260 during his first full season as a 19-year old. Last year he hit .290 over three levels. He started slowly this year with Frederick, hitting just .241 in 41 contests, but again showed a good enough batting eye that the O's promoted him to Double-A Bowie.
There he proceeded to take off. Over the final four months of the season, Hoes hit .311 with six home runs, doubling his career total, and and 51 RBI. Hoes was so good during one stretch in late July/early August that he earned Eastern League Player of the Week honors and a spot on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet.
Overall, Hoes set career highs in runs, hits, home runs and RBI, while tying highs in doubles and steals.
More importantly, Hoes made the move to the outfield, which should make his path to the big-leagues a much quicker one.
.285, 70 runs, 24 2B, one triple, nine HR, 71 RBI, 53-to-81 BB:K, 20-of-29 SB (Frederick and Bowie)
Welty was a rising star in the Orioles system coming into the 2011 season.
He impressed everyone with a stellar 2009 season, in which he hit .290 with ten homers, 67 RBI and 13 steals, and then built upon that success last year with Frederick. With the Keys, he hit .282 with 18 homers and 82 RBI. He set career highs in numerous offensive stats, including doubles (32), triples (three), runs scored (86) and unfortunately...strikeouts (159).
Welty, playing solely for Double-A Bowie, showed improved plate discipline this year, cutting his strikeouts by 24, while at the same time increasing his walk total to a career high of 51. Unfortunately, his more patient approach at the plate cost him in the power department. His homer total dropped to 13 and he drove in just 45 runs. More importantly, his average dipped to a career low .228.
Welty still has one of the more impressive sets of tools in the system, and he'll likely reach Triple-A next season at age 24, but he's got plenty of things to work on before he can think about laying claim to a full-time big-league job.
First among them is finding a balance between being aggressive and patient at the plate.
.228, 47 runs, 20 doubles, three triples, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 51-to-125 BB:K, 11-of-14 SB (Bowie)
Ever since signing with the Orioles, former UCF ace Tim Bascom has alternated good and bad seasons.
His debut was brilliant: a 3.68 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 73.1 innings.
Season number two was brutal: a 5.78 ERA with 15 homers allowed in 95 innings.
Season number three was solid: seven victories, a 3.94 ERA and a then career high 134.2 innings.
Season number four was sour: a 5.44 ERA and a career high 23 homers allowed in 147.1 innings.
This year, in continuation of the trend, Bascom returned to the good graces of the baseball gods. He posted his lowest ERA ever (2.97) and won a career high ten games. He posted his most impressive K:BB ratio (117-to-36) and showed capable of dominating Double-A hitters.
So what made the difference this year? And more importantly, how can he reverse the trend and have a solid year in 2012?
The answer may have had something to do with the 12 appearances he made coming out of the bullpen. Who knows, maybe he hated pitching in relief so much that he vowed to be at his best every time out, maybe he enjoyed the extra rest, or maybe he just got lucky. Either way, there's really no way to explain how he finished so strong.
The O's just hope he can carry his momentum over into the 2012 season.
10-4, 2.97 ERA, 30 G, 18 GS, 136.1 IP, 117-to-36 K:BB, eight HRA (Frederick and Bowie)
Drake has come a long way since pitching for the U.S. Naval Academy.
This year the right-hander enjoyed arguably his best season, setting career highs in victories, ERA, games and games started, innings and strikeouts. His work with the Frederick Keys was sterling.
In 14 outings with the Keys, he posted a 2.14 ERA and earned eight wins. He tossed two complete games and struck out 80 batters in 96.2 innings. For a guy who isn't a strikeout pitcher, the numbers were jaw-dropping.
When the O's decided it was unfair to let him continue racking up stats against inferior competition, they promoted him to Bowie, where he was hit a bit harder. He still picked up three victories and notched two more complete games, giving him a organization's best four. The key to his down-turn was the long-ball. After surrendering just one in 96.2 innings in High-A, he gave up eight in 64 innings in Double-A.
Overall, the season was an unquestionable success, with Drake even making a relief appearance in Triple-A, his first taste of the league.
11-8, 3.32 ERA, 27 G, 25 GS, four CG, one ShO, 162.2 IP, 129-to-43 K:BB, nine HRA (Frederick, Bowie and Norfolk)
Waring has always been a safe bet for two things: lots of strikeouts and lots of home runs.
This season, both came in fewer number, but he still cracked 20 homers for the fifth consecutive season, an impressive feat even in the minor leagues. The most encouraging sign for him this season was the fact that he struck out just 127 times, the lowest number of strikeouts for him since 2007, when he played in just 69 games.
Unfortunately, Waring's walk total also dropped...by nearly half. As a result of his impatience, his average suffered greatly. Whereas the O's had come to expect an average around .250, Waring blew all the averages out of the water and dropped to .222.
As a result, the O's gave him more breaks and he appeared in just 115 games, his fewest since 2007.
Waring appears to have hit the wall that so many semi-talented hitters do in Double-A. Former Oriole Mike Costanzo is a prime example of a guy who has a lethal power stroke in the lower levels of the minors, but racks up the K's the further he rises.
The O's likely won't cut ties with Waring, considering he still has the most power of any hitter in the system, but his time is running out.
.222, 60 runs, 21 2B, three 3B, 21 HR, 59 RBI, 33-to-127 BB:K (Bowie)
If you're looking for the break-out star of the 2011 season, look no further than Pettit, a diminutive lefty from Orting, Washington.
Pettit played his college ball at Western Oregon State College and came to the Orioles via the 42nd-round of the 2010 MLB Draft. And in just one full season he has gone from a nobody to a playoff hero. It was Pettit who has blossomed into the ace of the Frederick staff, and who got the call in game one of the Carolina League playoffs. And ultimately, it was Pettit who recorded a complete-game victory in the contest.
It's been a year of firsts for the 24-year old. Pitching in full season ball for the first time, winning ten games for the first time, posting a sub-1.75 ERA in High-A ball for the first time. That kind of year.
The amazing thing is, Pettit didn't look like an ace during his first 15 outings of the year, all coming for Low-A Delmarva. He looked like a solid mid-rotation arm, posting a 4.42 ERA and a middling K:BB ratio.
It wasn't until he was called to Frederick that he began to blossom. He won his first four starts, allowing just two earned runs in 22.2 innings, and then proceeded to go at least five innings in each of his next six seven starts, including the playoff victory on Wednesday. For the Keys Pettit has been unhittable. He's held batters to a .213 average, posted a 41-to-15 K:BB ratio and held down a 1.62 ERA.
If you're looking for a dark-horse to make it to Triple-A next year, look no further than Pettit.
12-4, 3.38 ERA, 26 G, 25 GS, 149.1 IP, 106-to-45 K:BB, 12 HRA (Delmarva and Frederick)
Schrader was on his way to a career-making year when he was struck with some discomfort in his elbow. That gave the Orioles enough pause that they shut the 21-year old down, and didn't allow him to pitch after July.
Still, you would have to call the 2011 season an unmitigated success for the former San Jacinto College ace. He dominated older hitters in the South Atlantic League, and looked even sharper in a 15-game stint with the Frederick Keys.
The book on Schrader, the team's tenth-round pick last year, was that he was incredibly difficult to hit, and he proved that to be incredibly true, allowing just 19 base hits in 46 innings all year. Batters hit just .123 against him, by far the lowest of any pitcher with more than 40 innings in the system.
He racked up strikeouts by the truckload, compiling 38 in 22 innings with Delmarva, and another 35 in 24 innings with the Keys.
Assuming his discomfort is nothing too serious, Schrader should be on the fast-track next season.
2-2, 1.57 ERA, 27 G, five SV, 46 IP, 73-to-23 K:BB, two HRA (Delmarva and Frederick)
Before there was Jonathan Schoop, there was Rosa.
The young, promising shortstop from the Domincan showed tons of promise in a stellar 2008 season that he has failed to recapture in any of the campaigns since. This year, his batting average dipped all the way to .241, including a .212/.225/.296 line with High-A Frederick. He was so bad for Frederick, posting a 3-to-47 BB:K ratio, that he was eventually demoted to Low-A Delmarva.
He performed much better with the Shorebirds, doubling his doubles and RBI totals for the season in fewer games than he spent with Frederick. His average spiked, but not enough to prevent him from finishing below .250.
Rosa has no doubt been surpassed by other infielders like Manny Machado, Schoop, Hoes, Miclat and possibly even Mychal Givens, leaving him a minuscule chance of having a long-term future with the club.
.241, 35 runs, 22 2B, two triples, five HR, 48 RBI, 9-to-104 BB:K, 6-for-6 SB (Frederick and Delmarva)
Like many Orioles prospects this year, Townsend was plagued by hamstring issues. Unfortunately, they have been somewhat of a curse for the 23-year old, limiting him to just 83 games in two seasons before this year.
He played in a career high 72 games this season, and put up great numbers, but failed to stay healthy long enough for them to count among qualified hitters. Still, his season was impressive nonetheless, especially for an organization long deprived of any legitimate talent at first base.
Townsend hit .317 with 26 doubles and 14 home runs, proving to be a capable hitter for both average and power, something the O's haven't had since Raffy Palmeiro. He drove in 58 runs, 50 of which came during his time with the Keys.
What is remarkable about Townsend, other than the fact that he doesn't seem to be plagued by any other sort of ailment besides those relating to the hamstring, is that he's been able to hit for such a high average while striking out a good amount and walking very little.
He drew only 14 walks all season, and three of those came during a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League.
If he can make it through an entire season healthy, he might find his way further up the O's depth chart.
.317, 46 runs, 26 2B, two 3B, 13 HR, 58 RBI, 14-to-68 BB:K, 2-for-4 SB (Gulf Coast League and Frederick)
Another unheralded star of the 2011 campaign was Aberdeen's David Baker.
Baker was drafted in the 14th-round of the 2009 draft, and piddled around in the Gulf Coast and Appy Leagues the past two seasons. He made his full season debut after looking advanced in five starts in the New York-Penn League.
He posted a 2.45 ERA and struck out 23 batters in 25.2 innings for the IronBirds, before earning his way to Low-A Delmarva, where he looked even better.
In nine starts with the Shorebirds, Baker notched three victories, struck out 48 batters in 54.1 innings and maintained a fantastic 2.82 ERA.
Combined, batters from both leagues hit a paltry .204 off of Baker.
At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Baker has plenty of room to grow, and with that, plenty of projection left.
4-6, 2.70 ERA, 14 GS, 80 IP, 71-to-27 K:BB, seven HRA (Aberdeen and Delmarva)
If it's not time to officially declare the Orioles first-round pick from 2009 a total bust, it's pretty darn close.
Hobgood showed flashes of something during his debut in '09 and some consistency during 2010, but fell apart towards the end of both campaigns. His 2011 season was a total disaster.
First, he started the season late due to some soreness stemming from his strained rotator cuff. He finally got back on the mound mid-season but looked like somebody learning how to pitch for the very first time in stints in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.
Against much younger hitters in the GCL, he looked decent, posting a 4.50 ERA, but in the NYPL he looked in way over his head, posting six losses in eight outings and surrendering 41 hits and 31 earned runs in just 26.2 innings.
For the season he issues more walks than strikeouts.
To be sure that there was nothing structurally wrong with Hobgood, the O's sent him for an examination with the team's orthopedist, who found nothing wrong with the right-hander's shoulder.
0-6, 8.76 ERA, 13 G, 12 GS, 37 IP, 22-to-26 K:BB, three HRA (Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen)
The Orioles seventh-round (Howard) and tenth-round (Wilson) selections both performed as expected in their pro debuts, showing considerable poise and the kind of leadership that the team's farm system has been lacking in year's past.
Howard, a former ace at Central Michigan, jumped right into the Aberdeen rotation after signing and made nine starts and two relief appearances before the season drew to a close. He earned three victories, posted a 3.48 ERA and struck out 45 batters in 41.1 innings. He struck out at least four batters in all but three of his starts and struck out six or more three times.
Wilson, one of the most prolific pitchers in UVA history, shared the Aberdeen rotation with Howard during his six starts for the IronBirds. He averaged five innings a start, a moderate amount after the work-load laid on him by the Cavaliers coaching staff this spring, and posted a 2.10 ERA and a 24-to-4 K:BB ratio. Four of the seven runs he allowed came via the home run.
Howard: 3-2, 3.48 ERA, 11 G, 9 GS, 41.1 IP, 45-to-14 K:BB, one HRA (Aberdeen)
Wilson: 0-0, 1.91 ERA, 8 GS, 33 IP, 27-to-5 K:BB, four HRA (Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen)